Sarajevo decides against honouring Turkish author Pamuk

Sarajevo (AFP) - Sarajevo has dropped plans to proclaim Turkish Nobel literature laureate Orhan Pamuk an honorary citizen of the Bosnian capital, a move the opposition claimed was done out of fear of offending Turkey's president.

A municipal council committee, tasked with deciding on the award, this week revoked its earlier decision to honour the famous author, who is also an outspoken critic of the current political climate in Turkey.

The committee has so far given no explanation for revoking the decision which had previously passed unanimously by the seven councillors.

In the second vote, four councillors voted against it, Samir Fazlic of the opposition multi-ethnic Nasa Stranka (Our Party) party told AFP.

The different outcome of the vote was prompted by the "writer's opposition to the politics of Turkish president Erdogan" and "fear ... of Erdogan," Fazlic claimed.

Sarajevo is ruled by Bosnia's main Muslim SDA party led by Bakir Izetbegovic.

Izetbegovic, also the Muslim member of Bosnia's joint presidency, is close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who invited him to the marriage of his daughter in May 2016.

The opposition Social Democratic Party in a statement also criticised the decision as "servile politics."

Contacted by AFP, the office of Sarajevo mayor Abdulah Skaka, of the SDA party, did not reply.

Head of the committee Velija Katica, also of the SDA, told local reporters he "did not get instructions on how to vote."

Pamuk had been nominated for the award by a local bookstore as he is writing a screenplay for a movie on wartime Sarajevo. The bookstore director reportedly said the committee thought Pamuk was not "sufficiently important for Sarajevo."

"We still don't know" what was the real reason, director Damir Uzunovic told regional N1 television.

"To say that he (Pamuk) is not sufficiently important for the city is no explanation at all. ... This argument is completely absurd."

Bosnia's branch of the PEN club sent its "sincere apologies" to Pamuk.

Pamuk, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 2006, has denounced what he called a climate of "fear" in his country.

He lashed out at the arrest of prominent Turkish writer and journalist Ahmet Altan, over suspicion of being linked with a failed July 2016 coup, warning that Turkey was heading towards becoming a "regime of terror".

Since the end of Bosnia's 1990s war, Turkey has invested in Bosnia through the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) some 240 million euros ($298 million) in about 800 projects. They include the reconstruction of mosques, monuments from the Ottoman era and schools.

The Ottomans ruled in Sarajevo for more than four centuries until 1878.